Friday, June 24, 2011

The Killing: How To Destroy a Potentially Fantastic Show in One Season

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Killing since its season finale last week. First - that it was compared to the Game of Thrones finale, which really wasn’t fair because, you see, Game of Thrones is the most amazing story ever told, much like what the Bible claims to be, whereas, even at its best, The Killing was just a really fantastic procedural. Apples and oranges, fans of Sunday night cable television.

The Killing, however, did let us down, not just in its season finale, but pretty much throughout the final third of the season. Other than that great one-off episode where Holder & Linden had all those insight-filled conversations, most of the latter part of the season was a series of misdirects & repetition, & the cost that was paid is everyone really stopped caring Who Killed Rosie Larsen because we slowly realized that every prospective killer was going to actually be a victim of poor police work or vigilante justice.

I’m at the point now where I’m glad Rosie Larsen is dead, because all that was revealed about the girl is that she was a secretive brat who probably wasn’t a very likable person in life - she wasn’t even wearing the shirt that made her Mom cry from happy Mom-memories when she died. Rosie Larsen is an asshole! That would be fine if we had been able to focus on the family’s turmoil after violently & suddenly losing a family member. On Six Feet Under Nathaniel Sr. was a secretive ass, but he was intriguing & he left a profound mark on his family members, not just by dying, but by living. Why were there no flashbacks where we saw Rosie interact with her family & teachers & friends? Why didn’t Rosie’s ghost appear to berate and/or comfort her grieving parents? Why are we supposed to care so much for a girl whose character was barely revealed, and when it was, it was either saccharin or eye-roll inducing? We need to love this character so we can care about her grieving family & care about bringing her killer to justice.

So that’s the problem with the Larsen story. It’s not the acting; both Michelle Forbes & Brent Sexton’s performances were outstanding, and I still believe award-nomination worthy. Brendan Sexton III was probably the only misdirect story-line that I enjoyed because it involved that inspired performance from him during his interrogation. The problem with both the Larsen & the Linden/Holder stories are not in the acting. Mireille Enos & Joel Kinnaman are also fantastic performers, but again, their story-lines ended up with only hints at their pasts & their characters & left us needing so much more. Plus, at the end of the season, they end up looking like bad cops, bad friends & bad parents.

Why are the writers so insistent on making their main characters unlikeable & so frustratingly inconsistent? Why was it established that Mitch & Stan have this great relationship, but then at the end of the season the dude couldn’t just tell his wife that they had no money because he was buying her a cute little house in a nice neighbourhood? That’s not a secret that needs to be kept! And I get that Mitch was overwhelmed with grief, but she also ended up behaving like a straight up ass in the last few episodes, culminating with a sloppy character development in the season finale about Mitch wanting to travel the world instead of raising 3 children above a garage in rain-soaked Seattle. After revealing this sort of hugely important aspect of Mitch’s character in one scene tucked into a season finale, she left. For good? I don’t know, but I know I don’t care.

I don’t care about any of these people, the least of which being the insufferable group of characters in the politician storyline. What a bunch of vile creatures! I never knew the race for mayor of Seattle was such a big-damn deal! They all behaved as if, not only would they cut the throats of their closest companion to win the race, but also that they would all be perfectly capable of killing Rosie Larsen. I bet they did! I bet they all did! Even if they didn’t, who cares, they all deserve to be curbed.

Somehow, a tense, exciting, well executed, emotionally harrowing show about loss & mystery & obsession became a show about a bunch of jerks. I’m not show how the show managed to wander so spectacularly off-course, other than the fact that the writers didn’t even have a killer in mind before they began writing the show, but it wandered off in so many ways that it’s actually kind of impressive. It leaves me thinking: who cares that we were left with another potential misdirect & senseless vigilante attack - a cliffhanger would have been acceptable if, at the end of the season, we gave two shits about the show’s characters, and despite a mostly marvelous cast of performers, I seriously don’t. You know who killed Rosie Larsen? The Killing's entire writing staff.

cross-posted to That Obscure Object

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